Godchaux Refinery whistle heads to Reserve museum

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 18, 1998

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / February 18, 1998

RESERVE – A fragment of area history has been rescued for future generations and, with luck, the Reserve area may once again hear the Godchaux Sugar Refinery whistle around which so many families arranged their lives.

The “Big Whistle,” which sounded at shift changes at 8 a.m., 4 p.m. andmidnight, and again for noon and 1 p.m. for lunch, has been restored to theReserve Lions Club from the Port of South Louisiana’s Globalplex facility.

Globalplex is located on the former site of the sugar refinery. The ReserveLions plan to present the whistle to the Godchaux House Museum at West 10 Street and River Road.

The whistle used 120 pounds of steam to sound its three-toned blasts, according to Quincy Montz of the Reserve Lions Club, who is assisting the Godchaux House Museum in acquiring such artifacts.

The whistle, 6-feet, 6-inches long and more than 400 pounds, is now undergoing reconditioning at Highland Fabricators in Reserve. The projectis being led by Bobby Boudreaux, who once worked as mechanical supervisor at the Godchaux refinery.

In addition, the “Wildcat Whistle,” sounded only for emergencies at the plant and as a fire whistle, will also be donated to the museum.

The Reserve Lions Club organized the Reserve Volunteer Fire Department in 1957 under the direction of Jack Crais. Whenever there was a fire inReserve the “Wildcat Whistle” would alert firefighters at the refinery and the “Big Whistle” would sound a series of long and short blasts to direct firefighters to the location of the fire.

The code went like this: Three short blasts meant the fire was on the plant. One long and one short blast meant the fire was between the plantand Central Avenue. One long and two short blasts meant the fire wasbetween Central Avenue and Dupont. One long and three short blasts meantthe fire was between the refinery and Garyville.

It was the “Big Whistle,” however, which directed the lives of many Reserve area residents. Mothers would tell their children to come homewhen the 4 p.m. whistle sounded, or they would know when their spouseswould be home as the shift changes took place.

“That whistle was our clock in the community,” commented Julia Remondet, who heads the Godchaux House Historical Society. “We’re soglad to see the interest in seeing these items safe for the community.” The Society is planning an extensive expansion of its facilities and hopes to provide not only a history of the Godchaux refinery but also an interpretive center for the sugar industry in Louisiana.

Toward this end, the first Sugarhouse Soiree’ is planned May 9 at Belle Terre Country Club, LaPlace. The $100-per-couple party will host some ofthe great chefs of New Orleans.

In addition, the first Godchaux Historic Sugarhouse Festival is planned Sept. 11-13. Both fund-raisers will support efforts to restore theGodchaux House and acquire and expand the museum’s facilities and exhibits.

“We want to preserve the heritage of the past for the coming generations,” Remondet said.

Photo: THE MAIN WHISTLE of the old Godchaux Sugar Refinery is being reconditioned for exhibit at the Godchaux House Museum. Bobby Boudreaux, left, of Highland Fabricators, and Quincy Montz, are preparing the whistle for donation.

Photo by Leonard Gray.

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